Don’t let fear prevent you from being a solo traveller. Learn how to stay safe with these essential safety tips for travelling alone.
Are you thinking about solo travel for the first time but feeling anxious about the prospect? As a solo traveller, I understand that these concerns may prevent many people, especially women, from travelling alone.
Whilst I love going away with family and friends, there is something special about solo travel. Not only is it empowering, but you also have the opportunity to meet great new people and have total freedom to do what you want when you want to do it.
Equally, there are downsides to travelling alone.
Not least of these are personal safety concerns and, for the first-time solo traveller, these anxieties can be paralysing. Published solo travel studies report that the number one fear amongst solo female travellers is safety.
Staying safe should always be a priority for travellers, and never more so if you are travelling alone. And, sadly, travelling as a solo female requires extra vigilance.
The good news is that there are concrete, actionable steps you can take to keep yourself safe. Put any fears to bed with my 17 essential safety tips for travelling alone.
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Safety Tips for Travelling Alone: Before You Go
1. Research your solo travel destination
The majority of the best solo travel destinations are the safest, especially for those travelling alone for the first time.
Therefore, before you book that flight, find out if there are any safety concerns for your chosen destination. Potential threats to personal safety can assume different forms.
Terrorist threats or internal conflicts
Sadly, there are few absolutely safe destinations nowadays. However, don’t let this deter you from travelling.
Whilst I wouldn’t book a two weeks trek in Afghanistan, I take a slightly more relaxed approach to risk now than I would have ten years ago. I take the view that I am just as likely to be the victim of an attack in my home city of London as in many overseas destinations.
This choice is a highly personal one and will be determined by your personal circumstances and attitude to risk. You don’t want your holiday ruined or curtailed by civil unrest, so it pays to do your homework.
Good sources are the Foreign Office (or equivalent) websites of your country. As a UK citizen, I use the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website but sometimes also check out the one from the US Bureau of Consular Affairs.
You also need to know if your potential destination is a hotspot for crime or tourist scams. Good sources for research are travel guides, blogs, news sites and speaking to people who have visited the destination.
If it’s your first solo travel trip why not dip your toe in the water and venture somewhere that is familiar? This could be somewhere that you have been to before or a city break in your home country. This will help you gain the confidence to travel solo.
2. Have the arrangements for your first night sorted
Regardless of how loose the plans are for the rest of your trip, make sure you’ve booked your first night’s accommodation. Also, figure out how you will get there from the airport or train station.
3. Choose your accommodation carefully
As a solo female traveller, I cannot stress the importance of choosing the right accommodation. Again, you need to put in the legwork with research.
For me, it really is location, location, location. The hotel needs to be in a good area of town and, where possible, close to transport and restaurants.
Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices. I have found that if a hotel is cheap there is usually a very good reason for that.
4. If possible, arrive at your destination during the day
When day turns into night, a place can feel very different.
I have made the mistake of arriving in a city under the cover of darkness and trying to navigate my way to the hotel. This can feel at best intimidating and at worst threatening. In the light of day, finding your way to a hotel is so much less daunting.
5. If you have to arrive late at night, use a taxi
Better still, pre-arrange your transport on arrival. Although this will cost more, for the peace of mind it brings, this is money well spent.
6. Share your itinerary with someone at home
Before you head off, give a friend or family member a copy of your itinerary and flight details. If you don’t have a fully fleshed-out itinerary, don’t worry. A rough idea of your movements is better than nothing.
And keep in touch while you are away. On the road, many people post social media updates and messaging to share their journey with family and friends.
7. Photocopy or scan key documents
I usually carry a photocopy of my passport ID page. There is also a scanned copy of this and my travel insurance documents stored in an email or on DropBox.
8. Try to learn a little of the local language before you travel.
The ability to communicate with local people not only makes travelling more enriching but can also help you stay safe. This is particularly important if you are not venturing into a heavily touristed area. My go-to resource for a quick crash course is the DuoLingo app.
Safety Tips for Travelling Alone: On the Road
9. Lock up your valuables
For me, a key criterion when choosing a hotel is an in-room safe.
One of the first things I do on arrival is to lock away my passport, documents, money and cards I don’t need, and other valuables. If there is not a safe in your room, the front desk will normally have one.
10. Don’t flash your valuables
Would you walk along the street waving £500 in crisp notes in the air? I didn’t think so. In the same way, don’t flash your expensive DSLR or smartphone. Be vigilant when you take them out to capture that perfect Instagram moment.
Also, leave your diamond necklace and tiara at home.
11. Try to blend in
Wherever I travel, I try to blend in as much as I can. Although my fair complexion means that I am never going to pass as a local in many corners of our globe, there are other measures that I can take.
Respect local culture by dressing appropriately. For instance, shorts and vest tops are never a good idea in many Islamic countries for either gender and, for women, will attract unwanted attention.
Try not to walk the streets peering at maps. Instead, wander around freely, or discretely use your map or phone to guide you.
12. Trust your instincts
I cannot overemphasise the importance of using common sense and trusting your gut when travelling alone.
If somewhere doesn’t feel right, be it a shady street or a dodgy bar, leave. Don’t walk down dark alleys alone at night carrying a large stash of cash.
At times my instincts have been my best friend and I have learnt how to trust them.
13. Go easy on the alcohol
Don’t get me wrong, I love a cheeky glass or two of booze whilst I am away. But as a solo female traveller, I am responsible for my own safety and for getting myself back to the hotel.
Therefore, I don’t take any chances and limit the amount that I drink when away. For me, it’s not the right time to go out on the lash.
14. Avoid going out at night alone
Again, as a woman travelling alone, I am careful about where I go after sunset. Of course, this will depend on the destination, but I try to do all of my exploring during the day and then eat out close to the hotel.
15. Never, ever tell strangers that you are travelling alone
Don’t make yourself a target and over-share with strangers. Over the years, in many different places, I have been asked by strangers if I am travelling alone.
My stock response is that I am meeting my friend/partner later and that they have gone back to the hotel room for a rest. I would like to think that most of these enquiries have been genuine, but better safe than sorry.
Hotel staff, who will know that you are travelling alone, can be very helpful. Particularly in smaller hotels, they tend to keep an eye on you and advise on areas to avoid.
On some occasions, I have also worn a simple band on my ring finger to deter unwanted attention.
16. Be slow to trust
Whilst solo travel presents many opportunities for meeting new people, be savvy about how you do this.
Perhaps you meet someone in a bar, restaurant or on a tour and they suggest meeting up later that evening? It may sound obvious but don’t agree to head off to some isolated location with them. Instead, suggest meeting up in a public place where there will be other people around.
17. Be confident
Last but by no means least, strut your solo stuff. Even if you are quaking internally, don’t show it.
Convince others that you’re a strong, confident solo traveller. Very soon you will start to believe it yourself.